The Waynesville boys basketball team (9-4) opened the St. James Tournament against the host school on Tuesday, Jan. 16. After trading leads back and forth throughout the entire game, Waynesville was able to grab control of the game in the fourth quarter, sealing the win when Tanner Simpson took a charge with 6.7 seconds left to play in a 64-61 victory.
Waynesville was able to set the pace of the game early on, forcing St. James to play in the half court. Waynesville pressed hard, but was quick enough to keep up with St. James to force them to slow down and find holes in a set offense, which is the opposite of how St. James likes to play. Setting the pace helped Waynesville grab an early 9-6 lead, but St. James was able to adjust.
Tyler Recker subbed in midway through the first and instantly started to take the rock to the basket to cut the Waynesville lead to one. Once Recker made that first drive, his teammates followed suit and St. James found some ways to score. Most of St. James' scoring in the first came in the paint, as Bailey Terrill led St. James with eight points off the block. St. James was able to take their first lead of the game with 1:34 left in the quarter on a bucket by Carter Keeney, but Waynesville got a three from Gunner Rees with five seconds left in the quarter to give the Tigers a 14-12 lead through the opening quarter.
St. James was quickly able to tie the game in the second quarter thanks to some great shooting from Ivan Fuhring. Fuhring scored the St. James' first five points to knot the game at 17. The lead went back and forth throughout the quarter, as Waynesville repeatedly took the lead back only to have St. James come back with a basket of their own to tie the game back up. St. James was able to take a small lead late in the quarter, but Waynesville managed to go into the half with a 30-28 lead.
The third quarter mirrored the first two, as neither team was able to control the game at any point in the quarter. Neither team led by more than three points in the quarter, with both teams hitting some big shots to keep things close. Tahja Stewart and Carson Cavalier each hit clutch threes in the third to five Waynesville leads in the quarter, but St. James always managed to have a response. Mason Parker was able to bury a three of his own to give St. James a lead with just over two minutes to play, but Cavalier's three gave Waynesville a 43-41 lead heading into the fourth.
After three quarters of back and forth basketball, Waynesville came out shooting in the fourth. Cavalier hit a pair of deep threes for Waynesville to give the Tigers their first comfortable lead in the game. Waynesville's lead was able to balloon out to 54-44 three minutes into the quarter. St. James wasn't ready to call it a night yet though, as they started to whittle that lead down for the next few minutes.
Terrill and Ryan Harlan helped chip into that lead and St. James was able to score the next six points to bring the score to 54-50. Caleb Barnes hit a shot for Waynesville to end the streak, but St. James was able to keep Waynesville within six points for the rest of the game. Ty Uffman was able to hit a big three for St. James to bring the score to 58-55 with three minutes left to play, but Waynesville came right back with a three of their own from Rees. St. James went on to score the next four points of the game with pair of free throws from Harlan and a drive by Furhing, cutting the score to 61-59 with 1:20 left to play.
St. James was forced to foul in the final minute of the game, where David Adams sank a pair of free throws with 46.6 seconds left in the game. St. James responded with a layup by Harlan on the other end. Adams went to the line again on Waynesville's next possession, as Fuhring fouled out for St. James. Adams missed the free throw, but Barnes grabbed a huge offensive board for Waynesville to burn a few more seconds off the clock. He was able to get the ball to Rees, who was fouled, but missed his first free throw of a one-and-one with 18.2 seconds left.
St. James had a chance to tie the game with just over six seconds left in the game. They put the ball in Harlan's hands and the senior drove hard into the lane, while being defended by Tanner Simpson. This proved to be one of the most crucial plays of the game, as the whistle blew for a foul. Much to St. James' chagrin, Harlan was called for an offensive foul, which sent him to the bench with five fouls. Waynesville then inbounded the ball to freshman Shaq Fregiste, who was instantly fouled. Fregiste hit one free throw to stretch Waynesville's lead to 64-61. St. James needed a three to force overtime, but couldn't get a shot off and they took a tough three point loss.
"The Simpson kid, I thought that was a good call, he took a charge. That was a big play in the game," said head coach Chris Pilz after the game. "The we got it in to little (Fregieste), who's a freshman and he hit one. You'd like to hit two, but he hit one so they at least had to get up for a three."
Coach Pilz said that one of the key things he wants his team to take away from this game is improved basketball IQ. The Tigers went up by 10, but took some bad shots down the stretch to let St. James close the gap.
"We got it to 10 then we took three what I would call ill-advised shots. We're trying to improve our basketball IQ a little bit," said the Waynesville head coach. "Cavalier hit three big threes there in the second half, but up 61-57 he took a bad one with 1:15 left, why do you need that? Those are some things that we can hopefully learn from."
Waynesville had four players in double figures in the win. Cavalier led the charge with 13, while Adams and Barnes each chipped in another 12. Rees added another 11 points in the victory. Coach Pilz said this win was an important learning lesson for his team.
"That was a really good contest for us to help us improve. That's all we're after is trying to improve. You like to do it if you can win, get one more point," said coach Pilz. "We're just out to learn a little bit about ourselves, we've got six or seven weeks before Districts. We'll get some good lessons out of this tonight."
Waynesville will face off against Blair Oaks, who beat Newburg 64-35, in the tournament semi-final on Friday, Jan. 19 at 6:30.